The date is July 2012, about 27 months after the proposal and 14 months after our wedding. I needed to step aside from Christian Literature Communications – CLC Kenya to take care of our then young family as we had discussed before the wedding. It’s during this time that we started homeschooling our then 9-year-old daughter Adnah McKenna as we felt led by God (story for another day). During our courtship, we had promised each other that we would always be a three cord rope – Patrick Omukhango, myself and God. We would follow whatever He told us even when it made no sense.
Patrick had also made me a promise; that when we have an argument or disagreement, he will always hold me in a tight hug and will not let go until we resolved the issue, forgave each other and agreed to move forward irrespective of who the offender was. I knew it was in-love speaking then and not Patrick himself at that moment, but I received the promise. It was going to be very difficult for him to keep it, so I made an allowance in my heart just in case he failed.
The first few years are the most difficult for some couples and this was so for Patrick and I. Been in love (alone) is not enough to keep the marriage going, a fact that catches couples at this stage unawares. Before we got married, we had seen each other live our single lives for over three years. We usually focus on the strengths of others and subconsciously ignore the weaknesses.
In our single years, I was in leadership positions in different capacities at the Bible School and Church activities – I loved it. I served in many weddings in core capacities. I was a workaholic, driven by results and running side hustles to both make ends meet and for the sheer enjoyment. I was your go-to person. If I said yes to a task you allocated me, you can be sure I will move heaven and earth to see it through. I was very reliable and dependable. Patrick respected me for that.
Patrick was a quiet man, minding his own business, avoiding crowds and any resemblance of parties and gatherings. He was hardly excited by stuff other than when sharing spiritual revelations he had discovered. He was happy to stay at his house by himself than go hang out. He also kept time to the dot – while he would not commit to many things, the ones he did, you could count on him to show up on time, sometimes even an hour earlier. I respected him for that.
These qualities endeared both of us to each other. Patrick knew he could rely on me. I knew I could rely on him. But these same qualities became the greatest hurdles in our first year. We were serving in church in The Attendants department (aka Ushers in addition to Education Outreach, Armour Bearers, School of the Fivefold among others). We were required to be in church at 7.30am for the Attendants service. I was ok with that so in my (bad time management) head, leaving home at 7am would work very well. Shock on me when Patrick insisted we needed to leave at 6.15am. Since we did not have a car at that time, he had factored in the time needed to walk to the bus stop, wait for the bus to fill (it was an early Sunday morning so not as busy as a weekday would be) and also accommodate the time needed for us to walk to church after alighting.
Since we were also working together at CLC Kenya, this drama would continue from Monday to Friday going to work, Saturday going to church for the service teams meetings and Sunday going to church. So 7 days a week, 365 days a year we were going to the same places at the same time. Here’s a man who could count on one hand, the times he had been late his entire life. On the other hand, here’s a woman who could count on one hand, the times she had been on time her entire life.
This was a time bomb. A head on collision about to happen! My justification? I had had many responsibilities placed on me my entire life, juggling many responsibilities at a time meant I could not keep time, or so I thought.
We upset each other every morning over time management. At some point, Patrick stopped wearing his beloved watch to reduce being agitated as he would stare at the watch the whole time I was dragging myself out of the house. On my part, I was getting upset because I felt he could not see how much work went into the preparations towards leaving the house. We had our daughter to prepare, breakfast, clean the house (I did not want to come back to a dirty house) etc. Maybe if he picked a few chores he would have lightened my burden.
One evening, after many months of this cycle, Patrick held me in a tight hug and asked me to forgive him. He should not have been the only one asking for forgiveness, I knew I had my fair share contribution to the issue but I could not get myself around to apologize to him. He did not get offended by that. We then found a solution in that hug-time. We agreed to be waking up earlier, so I could do all the things I felt were important for me. He also helped sort some things the night before to ensure there was less on the to-do list in the morning. After a year, we had started to get into a rhythm that could work for us.
It was impossible to argue or fight with someone who has refused to argue or fight. And that would drive me crazy. Patrick would never raise his voice or say harsh words when upset, he kept quiet. I was used to crying and fighting my entire life so I needed someone who would come with the kerosene so we can make the fire bigger. Patrick came with a fire extinguisher, the more I lit the fire, the more he extinguished it.
After the initial year, I also went and bought myself a “fire extinguisher” lol. I learned to keep quiet when emotions are running high and revisit the issue at an appropriate time. It’s been working for about a decade. Some seasons we go for years without ever fighting – not because we do not disagree, but because we choose not to fight when emotions are high. This means that most issues never get out of proportion. Sometimes we can agree to pray over an issue for a couple of days before discussing it. If we genuinely pray in our individual times, when we meet to discuss, we have better perspective. God’s perspective.
When you think you have sorted or levelled a major mountain, there will always be some other mountain to conquer. It is important to realize that your spouse is not your brother or sister with whom you probably share same values due to a common upbringing. Your spouse is coming from another family, that was raised different from yours. Allow time to know each other and be willing to compromise on ways of living to form a new common way that will work for you two.
Your marriage should not end because your spouse does not squeeze toothpaste from bottom up. Or because they leave their socks or dirty clothes sprew all over the floor when clearly there’s a basket allocated for that. Or because they continue to have the personality traits that you liked (and did not like) when you were courting. A person does not change when they get married. What you see before is what you get after the wedding – so decide carefully.
While there are serious pre-marital counselling gaps nowadays, marriages are ending on very flimsy reasons. Be patient with each other. My husband tells me to forgive because I have been forgiven (first by God) and then by other human beings including himself. And in any disagreement, there’s always a contribution from both parties. If you focus on your contribution, you will find it easier to ask your spouse for forgiveness and also to forgive them.
1. Past experiences,
2. Past relationships,
4. Failures and life in general – this will help you two avoid any surprises in the future.
5. Your future aspirations and dreams – this will help you support each other and see your part in your spouse’s dreams.
Two great books, one is Love is a Verb by the author of The Five Love Languages Gary Chapman. Because love isn’t just a feeling. Love is a choice, and love is something we all need to do. Love is a verb. To last for the long haul and through the stresses and complexities of life, love has to be more than something we feel. It has to be something we do. We have to demonstrate it concretely in our marriages and families, among our friends and acquaintances, and, yes, even among our enemies. Gary shares examples of ordinary people who learned to take the obstacles, the lemons they face in life, and turn them into satisfying, emotional thirst-quenching nectar. These are the success stories that make you want to go out and try harder.
Another good read that I recently interacted with is Dr. Kevin Leman’s Have A New Husband by Friday: How to Change His Attitude, Behavior & Communication in 5 Days. Leman reminds any wife that if what she’s doing to get better behavior out of her husband isn’t working now, it never will. So it’s time for a change. That means it’s time to change her own patterns of behavior. Here’s how Leman suggests she handle it day to day:
Monday: Secrets Revealed: Cracking the Male Code? Yes, you’re different species, but you can work together in harmony.
Tuesday: Creatures from Another Planet…or Creatures of Habit? To understand men, you have to track them to their den.
Wednesday: Think About What You Want to Say, Then Divide It by Ten – how to talk so your guy will really listen…and listen so your guy will really talk.
Thursday: Think of Him as a Seal Waiting for a Three-Pound Fish – why making love to your man is a key to who he is and how satisfied he’ll be, and what’s in it for you.
Friday: It Takes a Real Woman to Make a Man Feel like a Real Man – how to open your man’s heart, revolutionize your love life, and turn him into the knight you’ve always dreamed of.
An additional good book to aid pastors and the couple wedding is Pre-Marriage Counselling Handbook specifically written for the African context; it gives the basic tools that every couple needs to have a successful marriage and equips pastors and counselors to teach a biblical pre-marriage session.
With Patrick, we also discussed where we wanted to live after the wedding – for some couples, it’s ideal for the wife to move to the husband’s house but it can also be the man needs to move into the location where the wife will be. There’s no right or wrong, just an agreement.
*We discussed how many children we wanted to have together – you don’t want to find out when you are already married that your spouse wants a large family while you don’t.
*We discussed what was going to happen when we were expecting our children – that I would leave work for a while to care for our young family.
*We discussed if we wanted to move to another city or country together if an opportunity came by for one of us.
*We discussed how to handle each side of the extended family.
*We discussed how to handle money and bills. All these may seem like basic conversations but you would be shocked at how much they can save a marriage.
All that was digression, the point is, I did leave CLC Kenya in July that year. But that was not a permanent decision. I started our business consultancy business, I enjoyed it while it lasted. I did personal development and discovered other talents in me. Two children later, I went back to CLC Kenya and continued with the assignments God had for us.
#MarriageLessons1 Don’t seek to win an argument. Let God win then the marriage wins. You can win the argument but your marriage loses. What’s better, to win the argument or to save your marriage?
#MarriageLessons2 Understand your common enemy, it’s not your spouse but the devil. So the two of you fight the devil together, not each other.
#MarriageLessons3 Peace is a weapon of war in marriage. Try live in peace with all men. Romans 12:18
#MarriageLessons4 Yes it’s important to speak your mind but it might not be communication. Aim to get the message across to your spouse.
#MarriageLessons5 A three strap cord cannot break easily. Marriage is stronger with God, Husband and Wife. Ecclesiastes 4:12
#MarriageLessons6 Before exploding on your spouse, ask yourself what your contribution to the disagreement is. That way, you will get into the ring not to fight but to find a solution.
#MarriageLessons7 Have an open heart to forgive, because you also need forgiveness from God, your spouse and others.
#MarriageLessons8 Your spouse is not your brother or sister you grew up with. Be patient and accommodate each other and start to form your home’s culture. It takes time so don’t give up in the initial years.
#MarriageLessons9 Same qualities that endeared you to your spouse can easily become the obstacles that set you off. Remind yourself always what you loved about each other before you got married.
#Singlestips1 Find a church or marriage counsellor that will guide you through a comprehensive pre-marital course. If they cover most gaps at this point, you will have an easier time later in marriage.
#Singlestips2 A person does not change when they get married. What you see before is what you get after the wedding – so decide carefully.
#MarriageLessons10 Find other couples who are years ahead of you. So they can teach you what to expect in the years ahead of your marriage. Titus 2:1-15
#MarriageLessons11 Find a couple’s fellowship you can belong to. It helps to hear what others are handling – there is not a challenge you are facing that is not common to man.